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Building a blueprint for a better brain by tinkering with the code.
September 14th, 2020
The perfect plan is a mirage, but not one that keeps us moving forward; it is a mirage that merely perpetuates our thinking and imaginative striving toward that perfect plan. There is an attempt to deconstruct completely the goal and reverse engineer its constituents until it unravels to our present circumstance. This is simply impossible, and so we try try the reverse: we try to see as many steps ahead as possible with the expectation that we’ll be able to imagine footsteps leading all the way to the imagined promised land of achievement. This too isn’t possible, but we can imagine such a plan existing, and this ability to hold a pair of ideals in our mind paralyzes the body from taking any action.
Not even nature can see across this gulf between present situation and goal. Nature iterates through generations and through branching species, always building with nuance and tinkering with different qualities. This is iterative building. If natural selection hadn’t been able to tweak changes through successive generations, we wouldn’t be here. Our very minds are the result of this iterative building, and it’s still unclear where this process of iteration is leading, even to us.
There are many instances that seem like something has a perfect plan. The development of an embryo to a fully formed human infant for example. The process is miraculous in its ability and it seems as though there is a perfect plan set out for this growth. But the word ‘plan’ isn’t exactly valid in the sense that we use a plan to aim our actions at a desired goal. The miraculous growth of all living creatures from a single cell is the result of something more akin to a recipe. DNA forms a set of instructions, like a recipe which is perhaps unique, but the uniqueness of each strand of DNA is more akin to the fact that no two loaves of banana bread turn out exactly the same, no matter how rigorously one attempts to follow the recipe perfectly. Such recipes and instructions are always written after something is built, and so it is with our DNA - the instructions of our growth: they exist because they have worked before, and these plans have grown as a result of tinkering with smaller versions that worked well enough to replicate in some way. We can imagine a primordial world where the first nucleotide formed, and then a second, and the two joined to form the first polynucleotide, which began laying the way for the gargantuan strands of DNA that exist in all of our cells. Every single piece of us could, in theory, be traced back to a step in this iterative process.
So when it comes to forming a plan to achieve some goal, why do we fool ourselves into thinking that we might be able to visualize every step of a path that we’ve never stepped foot on?
The plan of the iterative build is to start with just the first step: one that ideally moves in the direction of a goal, and ideally, even this first step will yield feedback divulging whether or not we’re headed in the right direction.
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